Two former Twitter employees charged with spying for Saudi Arabia; thousands of Twitter accounts affected
The US Justice Department (DOJ) has charged two former Twitter employees for spying on users on behalf of Saudi Arabia. One of the former employees is a U.S. citizen Ahmad Abouammo. He was arrested on Tuesday for allegedly spying on the accounts of three users on behalf of the kingdom. The Washington Post first broke the news.
The other employee is Ali Alzabarah, a Saudi citizen. He was charged on Wednesday with accessing the personal information of more than 6,000 Twitter accounts in 2015 on behalf of Riyadh. According to the criminal complaint unsealed Wednesday, DOJ said there was a coordinated effort by Saudi officials to recruit employees at the social media giant to look up the private data of thousands of Twitter accounts.
DOJ alleged that Ali Alzabarah and Ahmad Abouammo used their employee credentials to access information about specific Twitter users, including their email addresses, birth dates, phone numbers and internet protocol addresses.
“We will not allow U.S. companies or U.S. technology to become tools of foreign repression in violation of U.S. law,” U.S. Attorney David Anderson said in a statement. The two men could face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Abouammo faces an additional 20 years and another $250,000 fine for lying to FBI agents, the Justice Department said.